The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into Friday night’s matchup with the Clippers with a 0-2 record and without starting point guard Steve Nash. Oppositely, the Clippers are 1-0, coming off of a 101-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. With the media in a frenzy over the Lakers’ slow start, the veteran Lakers must improve their defense against an extremely athletic Clippers squad. Head to head matchups will also be key tonight, with both rosters stocked with talent.
With Steve Nash “doubtful”, Steve Blake will play a majority of the minutes at the one spot for the Lakers. Chris Duhon will back him up, and don’t be surprised if Darius Morris sees action to counter the athleticism of the Clippers point guards. The Clippers start arguably the best point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul. Despite missing a majority of the preseason with an injury, Paul didn’t show any rust in their season opener, posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists. Eric Bledsoe is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. He is freakishly athletic and the Clippers offense is just as efficient when he is playing. Even if Steve Nash was healthy and playing tonight, the Clippers would still have the advantage.
The Clippers start NBA veteran Willie Green who is a serviceable two guard, but Jamal Crawford comes off the bench. Crawford's 29 points off of 14 shots in the Clippers’ opener was the reason they won the game. Kobe Bryant has started the season on fire, despite the Lakers two losses, shooting 61% from the field. Jodie Meeks, who plays behind Kobe, has not lived up to expectations thus far but once he gets comfortable in the offense, his shooting percentage will improve significantly. Because of the threat of Crawford off the bench, the shooting guard matchup is a tossup.
Caron Butler has had a great 10-year, NBA career but his production dropped significantly last season with the Clippers. Metta World Peace is one of the most inconsistent players in the NBA, but he is intent to prove that he can still be a productive player for the Lakers this season. If World Peace takes what the defense gives him, and nothing more, and plays solid defense, the Lakers win the three spot.
Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin have had some great battles over the past few years and tonight should be no different. The two have completely different styles of play, with Gasol playing finesse ball, and Blake attacking the rim violently. Griffin is not a great shooter, though he has improved greatly, so Pau must give up the 10-15 foot jump shot and guard the rim at all costs. Pau will spend a lot of time with his back to the basket tonight, putting up the fade-away, 10-footer from the baseline he is known for. This matchup has been known to get heated, so whoever keeps their cool and plays under control will win this matchup.
Despite DeAndre Jordan’s athleticism, Dwight Howard proved in the Lakers’ game against Portland that he is still the best center in the NBA. Always take talent over athleticism. Also, Howard won the only matchup between the two last season, scoring 33 points and pulling down 14 boards compared to Jordan’s 8 points and 8 rebounds. This matchup goes to the Lakers.
The athleticism of the Clippers forces the Lakers to focus on two things tonight, turnovers and transition defense. Turnovers affect transition D, which is one thing coach Mike Brown has been preaching since the Lakers’ first preseason game. If the Lakers slow the tempo and strap down on defense, they will win the game and prevent a 0-3 start which is very important. No team in the history of the NBA has started the season 0-3 and gone on to win the NBA Finals.
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